During the [International Year of Shelter for the Homeless] (IYSH-1987) and the following years outlining the [Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000], numerous efforts were made all over the world to formulate viable national shelter strategies. In spite of all these efforts, an estimated 1.5 billion people - probably up to 3000 million households - will still lack adequate shelter at the beginning of the millennium.
The [Global Shelter Strategy] states that adequacy is essentially a national concept. Adequate privacy, adequate space, adequate security, adequate lighting and ventilation, adequate location with regard to places of work and basic facilities can only be defined in the specific context of a country's cultural, economic, social and environmental conditions. While this sound reasonable, it places the burden of searching for a workable, [ie] measurable, definition of adequate shelter on governments and a country's housing policy. At the same time, the emphasis on national definitions largely precludes international comparisons for lack of comparable data. This fact only underlines the notion that the pursuit of adequate shelter for all is mainly a national development goal, albeit shared by all countries as a global concern.
The difficulty in defining national shelter adequacy in measurable terms is also largely responsible for the inconclusive results of measuring the 'housing backlog' or 'housing deficit' which a number of countries tried to undertake in the context of the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless (1987). They found out that the extent of their deficit depended mainly on the housing standards they were willing to accept. Obviously, housing for all appears more attainable as a national goal if standards recognize the efforts of the informal sector and of self-help groups, and a country's housing policy actively supports such initiatives.
Article 31 of the European Social Charter (Revised) (Strasbourg 1996) provides: With a view to ensuring the effective exercise of the right to housing, the Parties undertake to take measures designed: (1) to promote access to housing of an adequate standard; (2) to prevent and reduce homelessness with a view to its gradual elimination; and (3) to make the price of housing accessible to those without adequate resources.